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Rescue Staff Helps Service Dog Diagnosed With Cancer Complete “Bucket List”

| Published on February 23, 2020

Wonka the service dog has only spent a few years on this planet, but he’s managed to accomplish so much in that time. In the last two months since his diagnosis with terminal cancer, the 6-year-old Golden Retriever has been even busier than usual. Hearts Alive Village, the rescue organization where Wonka works, put together a “bucket list” of adventures for his last days.

Kelly McMahon, Wonka’s handler, also serves as Hearts Alive’s Director Of Operations. There Wonka both works full time as McMahon’s service dog and a greeter at the adoption center. Wonka originally came to McMahon through an organization called Canine Assistance.


Wonka has many talents, including (but not limited to) picking up dropped items and turning on and off light switches. One of his most impressive talents, in my opinion, is his ability to provide comfort to other animals at Hearts Alive. McMahon told Fox5 he just has a talent for calming.

“He has a way of– some sort of doggy language. [Wonka] can talk to them and let them know, it’s going to be okay.” 


Wonka’s Disease

The trouble for Wonka began in December 2019, Hearts Alive shared on Facebook.

“Over a month ago, it started with some sneezing.. snotty and then a bloody nose… After trying all we could to treat his worsening symptoms, Dr. Muratore did a head xray and discovered Wonka’s entire right nasal passage was blocked with unexplained tissue.”

Eventually, the vet diagnosed Wonka with Chondrosarcoma, a condition that attacks cartilage. The disease has no cure.


Instead of subjecting the pup to painful treatments, McMahon wanted to give her service dog and best friend the happiest last days.

“Mom says we don’t have to do all that radiation stuff. She doesn’t want me to get hurt or burnt. We decided to just have fun cuz I’m feeling pretty good. We started a list of my favorite things.” – @wonkasway via Instagram

What’s On Wonka’s Bucket List

Wonka’s bucket list is pretty lengthy, so here are some highlights he’s yet to hit:

  • Go on ‘Ellen’
  • Take a picture with the Vegas Golden Knights
  • Get a doggie massage
  • Go on a boat ride
  • Visit a dog beach
  • Go to a comedy club
  • Be an extra in a movie
  • Swim in the ocean
  • Eat at the table at a fancy restaurant
  • Make it into the newspaper
  • Make a child’s wish come true
  • Visit the Natural History Museum
  • March in a parade

But since Wonka’s been busy, here are some things on the list he already accomplished:

  • Appear in a local magazine article
  • Play on the K9 unit’s training course
  • Meet a NASCAR driver
  • Ride in a police car
  • Get married
  • Have a slumber party
  • Get a portrait painted
  • Interrupt a yoga class 
  • Be a treat tester
  • Visit a fire station

Follow Wonka’s bucket list journey on Instagram. That’s also one way to help him cross off something on his list: become a social media superstar.

H/T: Fox5
Featured Image: @wonkasway/Instagram

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